Microsoft begins shipments of "mixed reality for business" HoloLens 2

HoloLens 2, first announced in February, is now shipping to customers. Microsoft is positioning the device as a business tool, not an entertainment product.

Microsoft begins shipments of "mixed reality for business" HoloLens 2

Following an introduction at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona in February, Microsoft is now shipping HoloLens 2 to customers, according to a blog post announcing availability. The announcement serves as a bookend to a week of announcements from Microsoft at their Ignite conference in Orlando, FL.

HoloLens 2 is positioned squarely as the "mixed reality for business" headset, with pricing to match. The device is available in three configurations, a developer edition priced at $3,500 (or financed for $99 per month), a device-only SKU for $3,500, or bundled with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist for $125 per user, per month. Compared to Microsoft's consumer-facing Xbox hardware, this is a significant premium, though the use cases are entirely dissimilar.

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Microsoft produced some custom silicon for the new hardware, enabling hand and eye-tracking capabilities, and "intelligent features such as simultaneous localization and mapping that's necessary to make holograms appear pinned to the world as a person moves around," handled by a holographic processing unit (HPU), iterated to HPU 2.0 for this release. This is used for what Microsoft refers to as "perception AI," handling the processing of attributes necessary for making immersive experiences, particularly for vital features that can lead to nausea or fatigue when done incorrectly.

Put another way, Microsoft notes that this enables a "model that allows the HoloLens 2 to precisely display holograms in front of customers for interaction and manipulation with their hands and eyes."

Likewise, Azure plays a significant role in the success of HoloLens, with collaboration between users with HoloLens 2 systems enabled through cloud computing. Microsoft is using "Azure Spatial Anchors" that can be used to allow holograms to persist, locked to real-world objects, viewable by anyone (with sufficient permissions). 

Microsoft cites the example of "a manager in a factory to place holograms next to
equipment on an assembly line that contain vital, real-time operating and maintenance information that any credentialed worker with a mixed reality capable device can access."

"If I can only place information that I will see back on my device, it's probably never worth placing holograms in the world, but if I can annotate the world and afterward anyone else in the company that has the right access can see all of the information, it is suddenly much more valuable," said Marc Pollefeys, in Microsoft's post announcing availability of the hardware.

That technology in Azure is likewise adaptable to use cases outside of HoloLens, with integrations available for smartphones and tablets on iOS or Android. The functionality is also leveraged in Minecraft Earth, a mixed-reality integration with the sandbox game that permits building virtual structures in the real world.

For more, check out "Microsoft's HoloLens 2: Why it's really all about the cloud," "Microsoft HoloLens 2: Everything developers and IT pros need to know," and "Your next business computer: HoloLens 2" at TechRepublic.

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Image: Microsoft